Thursday, October 5th, 2006

LibraryThing in your language

Update 1: is launched. No more subdomains for the Germans!

Update 2: Abby added Czech, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Finnish. Except for Czech–where we now tie into the Czech national library–the others lack their own library. Of course, major academic collections and the Library of Congress have considerable holdings in these languages.

Less than a week ago, I let a new feature sneak in. Members were invited to help translate LibraryThing into half-a-dozen languages (German, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Welsh, Catalan and Turkish)*. URLs for each of the language-sites were posted. Untranslated parts appeared in light yellow, with a link on each page to a simple translation form.

The whole thing has taken off beyond our wildest dreams. LibraryThing has a LOT of text. Even so, German reached 75% in a single day. To our surprise, even big paragraph-sized hunks went quickly. It probably didn’t hurt that we posted “top translator” statistics for each language; Thingamabrarians unite altruism and competitiveness to an astouding degree. It proves what I’ve come to believe. “Social software” is 50% social, and you people are simply amazing.

Since then we’ve been making more pages translateable**. There’s been a lot of vigorous discussion on the general translation group, and on each language’s group. We introduced some new languages–Spanish, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian now, Portuguese soon), Swedish, Danish, Irish). When I get back from tonight–I’m at the Frankfurt Book Fair–I’ll bring a dozen or so more live (Czech, Latvian, Lithuanian, etc.).

Go ahead and see the current list, with percentages.

Translating is the first step in a more comprehensive “internationaliation” of the site. We’ve also made progress on this, including fixing many (but not all) character set problems for newly-retrieved books, and adding new libraries, including a number in Germany itself. Note that previously-entered books still mostly use HTML entities for character, not UTF8. This will be changed soon.

It’s been remarkable seeing it develop. Cheers to all who’ve been helping out!

That’s all I can write now. My German hotel is rooking me something terrible on the internet service, and I need to get down to the Fair. I’ll update this message later, with more details.

*The list was deliberately mixed. Welsh in particular was a nod to LibraryThing’s unexpectedly strong Welsh continent—including three Welsh blog profiles. I feel that small, threatened languages like Welsh can get a lot out of LibraryThing, insofar as social networking helps unite scattered speakers, and
**Including the list of 500 MARC-specification languages. The system considers all “snippets” equally important, so that hit the percentages hard.

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